Colorless writings, part 7 – The Collector value

So you’re talking about the prices of used, collectible units?

Yes i am. This is one subject that shows human nature at it’s finest. Let’s make up a person. We’ll call him Peter. Peter was playing a guitar actively in early to mid 90’s. He had all the right gear back then. The gear that was cheap with reasonable sounds and was underestimated by many at the time. His pedals were used a lot, and none of them survived without any nicks and scratches.

Twenty years go by faster than one expected. Peter now has a day job and he’s given up on his rock star dreams. He only has one Les Paul left and trusty old 15W tube combo that he plays every now and then. usually after a few beers. The pedals he used to play are lying in a cardboard box at the back of his garage. One day he remembers the box and decides to put all the old trusty pedals for sale. All the great oldies, like DOD FX50B Overdrive Plus and FX80B Compressor, both with missing battery doors, Ibanez soundtanks DL5 Delay and TS5 Tubescreamer, Boss DS-1 Distortion, Marshall Guv’nor (obviously without a battery door) and MXR Phase45 with missing pot knob.

Now. What do you think happens next?


The sites that list used guitar gear get filled with posts selling these items. Peter clearly doesn’t have any clue what the units sell for, as he currently isn’t into pedals. Hasn’t been for over twenty years, even then he was more of an average user than enthusiast. And of course, as the units are all “old”, there must be some good money in them. This is where it all goes straight to hell. Peter can’t understand why all the other site users slam him down on comment threads and why no one is buying the pedals.

So he just put in too high prices?

Yes. As i keep on hunting and dealing with pedals every day, i run into this thing almost every day. For some reason almost everyone without deeper enthusiasm thinks that everything must be valuable just because it has ten or twenty years of age. And that’s why we see all the most common late 80’s and 90’s pedals for sale with ridiculous price tags. These people log on to eBay and search for their item. Then they estimate the value based on those units that people (thousand other Peters from around the world) are already asking way too much. The next Peter then gets the idea that every one of those is valuable. As the end result, there are now 15 pieces of beaten DOD FX50Bs with missing battery doors available, all for $100 a piece plus shipping. And none of those are selling. Gee. I wonder why.

Let’s make up another character and call him Mike. Now. Mike has similar situation, but his pedals from early to mid 90’s are slightly more desirable. Let’s say his cardboard box holds a DOD FX13 Gonkulator Modulator, Ibanez FL9 Flanger and a MXR Distortion+ from 1976, all three in very good condition.

Mike has a better view on how the world works. He could use a little cash to help his new hobby with miniature airplane models. He’s heard of the site called and he logs on to see what his units usually sell for. He then sets the starting price at slightly lower, let’s say 5 bucks than for what the units have sold for in the past. He’ll get all the units sold in first two days. He’ll make a nice profit and also one happy collector per item.

There should be more Mikes in the world.

The idea of your unit being extremely valuable may come from the facts that you’ve seen really old and rare pedals from the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s sell for hundreds, maybe even as high as a thousand USD. But something inside a human mind won’t accept that those are not the same thing as the units you have, the units that cost next to nothing as new and there are 25 000 pieces of them manufactured and spread around the world. Further, those are not worth anything when they are missing knobs, bottom plates, battery doors etc. This is another cold hard fact that people seem to be forgetting. One should try to sell one of those units with missing parts to any brick and mortar musical instrument store. You can guess the answer you’ll get.

How is it wrong to ask for some amount if someone is willing to pay what the seller is asking?

It may not be wrong. But i see this behaviour every single day and i totally see the sellers getting slammed in the comment threads. The thing i can’t emphasize enough is “don’t be a dick”. I’ve been on the brink of ripping someone off on some deals and i’ve always felt bad afterwards. When dealing with used gear that is more or less subject to its magical qualities, i strongly believe that it’s best to have both parties being ok with the end result. Sure. I’ve bought shit with a hefty price tag and i’ve been a subject of very bad deals. Probably even been a cause for one or two. Life is just a game that we must learn to play along the way. Being a dick makes it difficult for all of us.

The problem get even deeper when someone really pays the unreasonable price that was asked for a common unit. That just raises the price of that model artificially without any basis for it. We have the internet nowadays. One can easily get a clue what the unit is really worth by just doing a minute worth of footwork.

I may sound like a dick here too. That’s not my intention. My intention is to let you, the reader of my puny blog, know that you should not pay good money for unit that is missing rubbers from the bottom, the bottom plate, the serial number, pot knobs, battery door or anything else. These units are not collectible and their place is in rather the trash bin than on the auction listings with massive price tags. So dear god, the missing battery door is not something that should only shave off 3% from the price of a counterpart in mint condition.

3 responses to “Colorless writings, part 7 – The Collector value”

  1. Hi,

    Alessandro here, Italian, residing in the Netherlands.

    I wanted to write a long time ago to compliment you on the blog, but never got around to it. I own a lot of pedal as well, and enjoy your deep analyses. Both regarding pedals I already own, and regarding ones I don’t. (Just to bend a bit: pedals you praise that I own as well are: DOD Punkifier, Danelectro Cool Cat Chorus 18V, Pearl DS-06 Distortion, and others…).

    I just read your “collector value” post, and I totally agree… with an addition, though. There is one kind of personality that contributes to the often not justified pricing madness of “vintage” pedals. And this personality, unfortunately, is part of the professional music gear sellers. I say “part of” because not all used gear traders/sellers are bad, in fact most of them aren’t. I did good and fair business with many of them here in NL.


    I also encountered the following situation. Private seller on a dutch 2nd hand website selling an 80’s flanger in great condition, from a not-so-known brand (think Aria, Guyatone, Arion, Pearl,…) for a fair price. 40 euros. I contact him because I am interested, and he says “no sorry, a guy from city XX is driving up here tonight to buy it asap, so no deal”). Ok, no big deal, I was able to find that pedal elsewhere for a similar price soon after. But I kept asking myself “hey, city XX is quite far from where that private seller was, why bothering rushing a drive there rather than having the pedal shipped? fuel costs probably were bigger than postage… oh well who cares”.

    Then, a few days later, I just so happened to check the website of one professional gear seller in city XX (one that I don’t check so often because I do believe his prices are nuts and unrealistically inflated). Lo and behold. That same flanger magically appeared in his offerings. The price? 140 euros. The shameful thing is not the 100 euros markup (hey, making money per se is not bad). It is the blatant disregard for common sense pricing. I got the same pedal from another professional seller, which is just a couple of hundred miles from where this one operates, for about 60 euros. What kind of business practices would prompt a seller to price any good more than double what another seller a few miles from him is asking? The “let’s create hype online” business practice. People will see the link when they search the thing on google. they will account that outlier price in the averages. So little by little prices will shift up. And in a bunch of years he might score a sale for a price close to what he asks for.

    Hey, I am not necessarily complaining, I might indirectly benefit from this phenomenon down the road, should I want to sell my flanger.

    But still, I think a lot of reasons for unrealistic pricing hypes of old by not necessarily brilliant effect designs has more to do with professional sellers rather than private ones. The “hand wired Tubescreamer with mogami cable” that sells for about 300 bucks also comes to mind… I for one think gladly about the fac that probably it does not sound that much different from the Soundank TS5 that I paid 20 euros a couple of months back :)

    Keep up the great pedal blogging, cheers!


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